Why Teach The Common?
Teach The Common in your classroom and receive discounted subscriptions, a free desk copy, and lesson plans.
A classroom subscription includes two issues for every student, and an in-person or Skype visit from Editor in Chief Jennifer Acker or a participating author.
Supplementary materials for teaching Issue 21 are listed below.
To accompany the portfolio Arabic Stories from Morocco
An introduction to the portfolio: In “An Orient Free of Orientalism: Magic, the square and women in Moroccan short fiction,” Arabic Fiction Editor Hisham Bustani discusses themes and approaches in contemporary Moroccan fiction as well as the process of putting together Issue 21’s portfolio of Arabic stories in translation. This essay (also available in the original Arabic) will provide useful grounding for students as they explore and reflect on the portfolio.
Explore our collected resources and lesson plans related to literary translation in general, and to Arabic literature in translation, in particular. Teachers may also wish to explore and incorporate some of the contextual, critical, and literary readings discussed in ArabLit’s guide “Teaching with Arabic Literature in Translation: Once and Future Moroccos.”
Trace the evolution of the definition of “Moroccan literature” in “What Is Moroccan Literature? History of an Object in Motion” by Gonzalo Fernández Parrilla and Eric Calderwood (Journal of Arabic Literature Volume 52: Issue 1-2), “a survey of a diverse corpus of literary-historical works that throw into question the linguistic, temporal, and spatial borders of Moroccan literature (and of Morocco itself).” Teachers unable to access article via the publisher’s website may contact us to request a PDF of the article.
Pair Malika Moustadraf’s “Lousy” with Moustadraf’s “Just Different,” (also translated by Alice Guthrie) from The Common Issue 11, a special issue entirely dedicated to Arabic fiction in translation. For further reading: Moustadraf’s “Delusion” (trans. by Guthrie as well) was part of a feature on contemporary Moroccan literature in Words Without Borders featuring fiction and poetry translated from Arabic and French.
ArabLit celebrates the legacy of Mohamed Zafzaf, author of “The Seventh,” and Mustapha Hamil explores Zafzaf’s writing and journeying north in a postcolonial world (In the International Journal of Middle East Studies, accessible via JSTOR).
For students reading “The Ache of the Sands”: Abdelaziz Errachidi discusses his literary influences and his novel, A Bedouin on the Edge in an interview with Beirut 39, presented bilingually in English and in Arabic.
In addition to the three stories she translated in this portfolio, students may be interested to explore Alice Guthrie’s numerous other translations from Arabic in The Common’s pages and learn more about Guthrie’s path to translation (via the American Literary Translators Association). .
In an interview with Book Blast, translator Nashwa Gowanlock discusses her career as a translator, favorite literary journals, and favorite prose writers. Gowanlock has also written a number of articles on cultural tidbits and important social issues of the Arab world published in Middle East Eye.
“Beyond Representation: Life Writing by Women in Arabic” by Issue 21 translator Nariman Youssef and translator Sawad Hussain reflects on giving Anglophone readers a better chance to engage with the works of women writers from the Arab world (via Words Without Borders); while this essay focuses on nonfiction writing, it may be productive for students to consider it in relation to the fiction presented in Issue 21’s portfolio of stories from Morocco, including similarities and differences in our expectations and reception of works of fiction and nonfiction.
For further exploration here and elsewhere
Podcast: Ricardo Wilson on his poem “nigrescence” and his new collection Apparent Horizon and Other Stories, winner of the PANK Book Contest in fiction. The collection includes several short poetic fragments scattered amongst stories and novellas, with both historic and contemporary storylines. Ricardo discusses his process for writing from historical research, and what it’s like writing creative and critical work at the same time. He also discusses Outpost, a fully-funded residency in Vermont for creative writers of color from the US and Latin America.
Podcast: Celeste Mohammed on her Issue 21 story “Home,” from her novel-in-stories, Pleasantview, and why it was important to her to write a book that shows all the complexities and difficulties of island life, with characters who break out of the stereotypical West Indian personality Americans often expect. In this conversation, she also discusses Trinidad’s multicultural society, her choice to write dialogue in patois, and her essay “Split Me in Two,” about being mixed-race during the election of Vice President Kamala Harris and the history of racialization and categorization in the US and the West Indies. See also: an interview with Celeste in The Rumpus.
Podcast: Jose Hernandez Diaz on “Ode to a California Neck Tattoo.” In this conversation, Jose talks about finding his way to prose poetry, and being initially drawn in by its casual language and style. He also discusses the process of editing and revising poetry, his interest in the surreal, and what it’s like writing from a first generation point of view.
Podcast: Ravi Shankar on “The Five-Room Box.” Shankar talks about constructing this essay on identity, family, and fitting in from an excerpt of his memoir, Correctional, about his time spent in prison. He also discusses how that time changed the course of his academic work, what it’s like to transition from poet to prose-writer, and the privilege and profiling Asian-Americans experience as the ‘model minority.’ For further reading, see a 2016 interview with Shankar, in which Shankar discusses his cultural background, ekphrasis, and the Tamil language (via The Rumpus). See also: 10 poems by Shankar in The Punch Magazine.
Podcast: Wyatt Townley on “Instructions for the Endgame.” Townley talks about experiencing poetry in all parts of her life—in dance and yoga, in astronomy and physics, and in nature. She also discusses her time as Poet Laureate of Kansas, the pleasure of revising poems, and what it’s like seeing her work performed as an opera.
Podcast: Talia Lakshmi Kolluri on “The Good Donkey,” writing fiction from the perspectives of different animals, and where the inspiration for those stories comes from. She also discusses how being mixed race can complicate conversations about race and identity in the U.S., how books and literature are making space for those conversations, and how she balances writing with a full-time job as an attorney. See also: Kolluri on writing speaking animals and their complex emotional worlds in an interview with Southern Humanities Review. Students might consider how the titular narrator in “The Good Donkey” opens up the practical and emotional realities of the story’s human and non-human characters as well as of the story’s setting in Gaza. What aspects of character and place become more available or nuanced when rendered through the Donkey’s voice and perspective? Keeping in mind some of the opportunities and approaches Kolluri describes, students might try their own hand at a story or poem that centers a non-human voice.
Podcast: Emma Sloley on “The Cassandras” and writing a story based on the fear of men women are taught to have from a young age. Sloley also discusses her decision to include a sort of Greek chorus in the story, apocalyptic isolation in her novel Disaster’s Children, and how travel writing has changed in the age of Instagram. Students may find further inspiration in the travel writing pieces on Sloley’s website, as well as in her reflections on writing as a big, warm house (Cleaver Magazine), her exploration of writerly rituals as talismans and superstitions (CRAFT), and her discussion with writer Emily Raboteau on addressing the climate crisis in fiction (LitHub).
Martha Cooley, author of the short story “Our Day in Peredelkino,” also recently published an evocative essay on the destructive and productive powers of sulfur in The Common Online. Students might consider how these two pieces, one fiction, the other nonfiction, bring forth a sense of place. For further reading – and inspiration – check out a fascinating essay by Cooley on the ontology and significance of boredom as a productive state (LitHub).
Students taken with Amalia Gladhart’s short story “Misdirection” may be interested to read her critical essay on the significance of theater in the identity of the Ecuadorian immigrant (Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature).
Pair Lore Segal’s essay “The Grain in the Rectangle” with the Paris Review’s exploration of Segal’s life story and approaches to writing as a Jewish immigrant in a post-World War II world and a short video in which Lore Segal reflects on her childhood, war-time memories, anti-Semitism, and storytelling (Financial Times). For more on Segal’s The Journal I Did Not Keep, check out a review from Harper’s Magazine.
David H. Lynn’s “A Journey Up the Exe” traces the author’s personal journey as well as both the subtle and starkly apparent shifts in this particular ecosystem; students may be interested to explore the complex ecology of The River Exe via a series of fascinating videos and podcasts available through Westcountry Rivers Trust. To build on this essay, students might undertake a smaller journey in their own surroundings, tracing new pathways or finding fresh perspectives on old ones, and use this as the subject of an essay, poem, or story. Students may also be interested in and inspired by Lynn’s essay on the value of literary magazines as artifacts and gateways to publication.
After reading “Finis,” students can explore more poems by Virginia Konchan in our pages. In an essay published by On the Seawall, Konchan writes about the mysterious space occupied by poems not written, and in The Critical Flame, she explores confessional writing and commodification.
Students can find more poetry from L. S. Klatt, author of “Light Ranger,” in our pages, and may enjoy listening to a conversation between Klatt and Oliver de la Paz, in which they discuss their poems from Issue 06 of The Common. Students may also enjoy listening to Klatt speaking with Alise Alousi and Zoe Clark about why people dislike poetry and why it’s such a powerful teaching tool (Michigan Radio).
After reading Rage Hezekiah’s “Cento for Surrender,” read about Hezekiah’s poetic influences and tracing the emergence of her own voice through the work of others (Mom Egg Review). Listen to this interview with Poetry Spoken Here, in which Rage Hezekiah discusses her work as a doula, her relationship with nature, and her gratitude for the poetry that arises from difficult experiences.
Elizabeth Scanlon, author of “Devotion,” discusses spirituality, meditation, and scientific research as poiesis in an interview with The Rumpus; read more of Scanlon’s poetry published in The Common.
Karen Skolfield, author of “Trap Street,” discusses gender, language, and her complex relationship with the military (32poems). Read an excerpt of Skolfield’s collection Battle Dress in our pages. See also: Athena Kildegaard close-reads Skolfield’s Frost in the Low Areas, exploring messages of loss and connections to the work of Elizabeth Bishop (via Bloom).
See all of Issue 21.
Teach Issue 21